In the end, Bengie Molina's heart was in San Francisco.
05/10/2010 11:20 AM ET
Bengie Molina happy in San Francisco
Veteran catcher came close to signing with Mets in offseason
By Hal Bock / MLBPLAYERS.com
The veteran catcher was on the free-agent market last winter and in serious talks with the New York Mets.
"It was close," he said. "Very close."
So close, in fact, that he had begun watching videos of Mets pitchers like Mike Pelfrey and John Maine, figuring he would be catching them this season. "I thought I would be there," he said.
But Molina also wanted some security to relocate from the West Coast to East. "For me to travel to New York, it was going to take more than one year," he said.
The Mets would not budge. And if one year was all he could get, Molina decided to spend it in familiar surroundings, signing on for a fourth season with the Giants. "I knew the people there," he said.
People like two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, who is surrounded on the Giants pitching staff by three other live arms in Barry Zito, Jonathan Sanchez and Matt Cain. Together they blazed through the first five weeks of the season with a 2.71 earned run average, second best in baseball, as the Giants posted the best record in the National League.
And Molina has been behind the plate for most of it.
"There's no comparison to these young kids," he said. "They are a bunch of guys who can pitch. They have nasty stuff. All four are very different. I have to be prepared to call games differently for each of them. What makes them good is that each of them has three or four pitches they can throw for strikes, not just one.
"Any pitcher in the league is good when he doesn't depend on one pitch. That's the difference. How amazing they are for me. It's an honor to be part of the process. It's a lot of fun. It makes you want to get up, go to the field and catch."
As much as Lincecum and company have flourished on the mound, Molina has enjoyed strong start at bat this season. He had a 10-game hitting streak and was batting .329 with the highest on-base percentage on the team.
Still, this could be one-and-done for the oldest of the catching Molina brothers.
"I'll be 36 in July," he said. "If my body doesn't hold up, I'm not afraid of retiring."
That would leave Jose with Toronto and Yadier with St. Louis to carry on the family legacy. Jose and Yadier were raised to be catchers. The craft came to Bengie by accident.
The Angels were scouting Jose when Molina's mother convinced the team to take a look at Bengie, who had hit well in amateur ball. The scout agreed, but the Angels were shopping for a catcher.
"I was an outfielder, an infielder and a pitcher, not a catcher," Molina said. "But catcher was my only chance to be a pro, so I catch, and look where I am now."
Jose and Bengie played together with the Angels from 2001 through 2005, and Yadier came to the Majors in 2004. The three brothers all own World Series rings -- Yadier from the 2006 Cardinals, Bengie from the 2002 Angels and Jose from those Angels and the 2009 Yankees.
"Words can't explain how special it was to win a world championship with Jose," Bengie said. "It is a special feeling, a feeling that just won't go away. It was amazing, a dream that we would win, and he was there."
There was a less pleasant encounter with Yadier this season when the youngest Molina, not being held close by Lincecum, took advantage and stole second base against his big brother. Bengie threw him out a day later but was not amused at the steal.
"That's what the statistics say," Bengie said. "He stole on me. I'll hear about it at Thanksgiving."
Hal Bock is a freelance writer based in New York.